Sunny-side up

Los Angeles-based gallery owner Adam D. Miller has curated the art show he always wanted to see as an undergrad at Sacramento State, and he’s bringing it to Verge Center for the Arts.

“I was trying to think about who I was when I was in Sacramento,” he said, “and what kind of exhibition would have been beneficial to me.”

In the early aughts, Miller got his creative kicks in Sac by playing in power-pop trio The Mallrats and designing cartoonish T-shirts and gig posters for local bands, including pop-punk legends The Groovy Ghoulies. But to satisfy his cravings for contemporary art, he traveled all the way to San Francisco.

Now, Miller’s upcoming show at Verge (June 10-August 20) gathers 18 accomplished artists from Los Angeles—some of whom show their work internationally. The exhibit’s title, Brightsiders, calls out that ever-present LA reputation: overly sunny and aloof. “I thought it was fun to embrace the stereotypes,” he said.

Taken together, the artworks capture a moment in the West Coast’s fashion capital. “There is a huge influence of textiles in art in Southern California,” Miller explained.

Crafts take center stage in Brightsiders, elevated from their grandmotherly associations into the lofty zone of fine art. Contemporary artists have cried foul on male-dominated museums for sidelining traditionally feminine practices such as weaving. Which brings up an important point about Miller’s show, one that he intentionally avoided turning into the focus: All 18 of the artists in Brightsiders happen to be women.

“When [curators] make it about who the artists are as opposed to the work, it can be a disservice to the artists,” Miller said.

Their works across media reveal LA’s sunshiny outlook as well as its ironic humor. You’ll find the variegated colors of a SoCal sunset in Laura Owens’ paintings and the desert motifs of Joshua Tree in Rebecca Morris’ large-scale abstractions.

Of course, LA is not all natural beauty. The artists skewer the city’s consumer culture, as in Aiko Hachisuka’s neon clothing sculptures and in Lara Schnitger’s tongue-in-cheek work. In one of Schnitger’s creations, high-heeled legs wear a spectrum of clashing prints. The disembodied limbs splay outward from a sign that insists with a hint of desperation, “We Are Sexy.”

For all the city’s superficial flaws, Miller still cherishes his home base for the opportunities it has given him, like opening his own gallery, The Pit. But the way he’s survived the cutthroat LA art market—using tactics like selling zines, tote bags and T-shirts—he credits to coming of age in Sacramento’s punk scene, where artists were proactive about finding their audiences.

He also learned from opening for progressively larger acts. “Similarly to how we did it in the music scene, we got bigger and bigger artists,” he said. “Pretty soon, curators from all the famous museums were coming to our shows.”

And now, some of those artists are coming along with Miller back to where it all started.